Kellett Motorsport recently made their first appearance in the Mondello 6 Hour Endurance race. We felt confident about our driver lineup as we felt we had the pace in all drivers to challenge for honours. Our drivers consisted of team boss Alastair Kellett, a multi Fiat champion and UK Fiesta race winner, Alan Dawson a race winner in Dunlop Saloons, RT2000s, Globals and Strykers and Keith Dawson a former Stryker and Global champion and Fiesta race winner.
After testing in Saturday in the wet we knew the car was quick in the wet but when Sunday morning dawned bright and the track drying minute by minute it was a bit of an unknowing quantity. After Alastair went out first we were bouncing around 1st to 4th in battle with the two Blackchurch entries #5 and #27 and the two Murray Motorsport cars #10 and #3. Then the times started to come down for everyone except us and it was painful watching us slide further and further down the grid not helped when Keith went rallycrossing on one lap filling the tyres and car full of mud. When qualifying was over we were P10 with a lot of head scratching to do.
The team put their heads together and decided to change the shocks as they seemed to be at fault for the car’s wayward handling. At 11.50 Alastair was bolted into the car and sent out onto the grid and into the unknown for us as every team around us had done the race the year before.
When the race began it was clear to see everyone had forgotten it was a 6 hour race as everyone was bumper to bumper and door handle to door handle. It only took 10 minutes for the first front runner to hit trouble as the #10 Murray Motorsport car, last years winners dropped out with a broken radiator and was soon followed by the Naas Court Car #17 parking itself in the gravel at the final turn. The safety car was scrambled as we were left P8 and lucky to have survived the carnage that had ensued. When the race was restarted Alastair picked off the #14 Murray Motorsport entry and in the next few laps charged past both Blackchurch cars and the #74 Southside entry with Keith Dempsey at the wheel. By the end of his first stint we were P2 and chasing the #3 Murray Motorsport car as the safety car made another appearance after the #50 YRI car went off at Southside corner.
After a clean stop Keith took over the #48 Mr Gearbox Mr Clutch car and was lying P3 but spent most of his stint stuck behind two backmarkers as the two leaders Blackchurch #27 and MMS #3 which soon became 2nd when MMS #3 was black flagged into the pits.
Keith came in and Alan was sent out and worked his way into the lead after the strategies started to split between all the teams. It became hard to follow who we were actually racing but it then became clear we were racing Blackchurch #27 for the lead as Kevin O’Hara closed up to us but Alan’s years of experience came into effect as he held off O’Hara for lap after lap until we both pitted on the same lap
It was then we hit the first issue with the car as during the stop one of our mechanics Stephen noticed that the front right tyre valve was broken and an unscheduled tyre change cost us time. We thought Blackchurch would have taken the lead but they had hit bigger issues as a burst coolant hose cost them 9 laps and dropped them out of the hunt for victory.
After the tyre issue we hoped that was the end of our problems but they kept coming as the car began to suffer fuel surge issues which cost us about 3 tenths of a second a lap and meant we would have to put more petrol in at each stop to make sure it didn’t surge which would cost us time. Our main rivals at this stage was Blackchurch #5 but then they suffered gearbox failure and they dropped out of the battle as well. By the end of Alastair’s second stint we led by a lap as Keith took over the car again.
We hoped by filling the car up with fuel it would cure the fuel surge but then a new problem reared its head when I noticed fuel leaking from the back of the car and by the way Keith was gesticulating in the car the fuel surge was still there. It was a testament to the pace of the car that we were still matching the leaders despite this issue. By this stage 4 hours in there was 3 teams in the hunt for victory. The Southside Motorfactors #74 the Mr Gearbox Mr Clutch #48 and the Murray Motorsport #14.
A new fuel cap was put on the car at the next stop and Alan took over and lapped at a consistent pace chasing ex Porsche Supercup and American LeMans series driver Damien Faulkner in the #74 but we received more bad news as the scrutineers told us we had to replace our driver’s side mirror at the next stop as it had been knocked off in contact.
After Alan’s impressive stint we had a disaster stop and lost a minute and a half changing the mirror essentially losing us a lap to the two leaders. Alastair got in and drove as hard as he could in the dark and rain and took time out of the leaders but we knew only a disaster for both cars would give us a chance at victory.
Keith took over for the final stint but there was concerns about the left front tyre as it was not in the best of shape and a godsend of a long safety car period helped us to nurse the tyre to the end. Up front the Murray car #14 was leading but a late charge by Faulkner saw Southside Motorfactors take victory by six tenths of a second from Murray Motorsport #14 and Mr Gearbox Mr Clutch a delighted 3rd.
The whole team really enjoyed the whole event and had great craic and will be back next year with all the things learned from this year to challenge for victory next year.
Images from Michael Chester.